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SJSoane

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  1. THOUGHTS ON CRAFTSMANSHIP This essay was first developed as a response to Al (alde) asking for tips on precision modeling work. I had been reflecting on this myself, and wrote a few ideas. This prompted other members of the Model Ship World community to offer additional ideas. I have pulled these together in this extended essay. They fall into two categories: Attitudes, and Techniques. I am sure there are many additional ideas that could be added here, and perhaps this can be improved upon over time. Mark (SJSoane), working on HMS Bellona, 74. ATTITUDES An ideal of perfection. Good craftsmanship starts with a deep desire to make something as good as one can possibly manage. This is a personal, inner drive, because a good craftsman will aim to make something perfect even when it will never be seen by anyone else. Indeed, the craftsman him or herself may never see it again, as in the case of great detail in a lower deck being covered up permanently by higher decks. When asked why I don’t accept less than perfect work when it will never be seen again, I have to reply that I will KNOW it was not as perfect as I could make it, and that is deeply unsatisfying to me. Patience in achieving perfection, learning from mistakes. Of course, early on, when one’s skills are less developed, the reality of what we achieve is along way from the ideal we desire. This can lead to frustration, even to giving up. It can also lead to inaction, from fear that once we commit and begin to make something, we will quickly see how inadequate it is; better not to attempt it at all. But as Keith (KeithAug) reminds us: “never let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” We have to be willing to accept less than perfect, even as we aspire to something better. The key is to try something, possibly fail to meet our own expectations, thoughtfully analyze what went wrong, and then try again. Michael Mott advises not to take it too hard when the desired result looks like a disaster, but to focus on what can be learned. Mark Taylor points out the virtues of a scrap bin, which is the physical history of making mistakes and trying again. Greg (dmv27) points out that some modelers will complete a model at a given level of skill, learn their lessons and move onto the next. Others will tear things apart on the current model and do it again, knowing they can do better a second or third time. One is not any better than the other, as Greg says: ”Chacun a son gout" (to each his own). In his tagline on his build log, Remco (Remcohe) offers the right mental attitude for finding this important patience: “Treat each part as if it is a model on its own, you will finish more models in a day than others do in a lifetime.” I think of this every time I feel myself growing impatient with an imperfect piece that is taking too long to get right. This IS the model, I think thanks to Remco, so take the time to get it right. Vaddoc points out that one needs a calm mind in order the achieve the highest quality, and this can suffer when life’s outside pressures get in the way. I agree, and I have also found that accomplishing something difficult on a model is a nice way to push away or moderate the outside pressures of life. So there is a virtuous circle in attaining higher levels of craftsmanship, if one can get past the initial inertia of an un-calm mind. Vaddoc says, keep building! Practice does get closer to perfect. I was fearful of cutting mortises by hand in my Bellona’s gundeck, because I had not done much of this and I feared I would do it badly (see previous point). Gaetan Bordeleau encouraged me to just get started, because by the time I had cut hundreds of mortises, I would get really good at it. He was right. Skills will noticeably improve if you just keep at it, adjusting your technique as you constantly reflect on what works and what does not. The zen of making. I started modeling as a “bodger”, defined as “a person who makes or repairs something badly or clumsily”. I would grab whatever tool came to hand, not properly secure the workpiece, not have a plan for how to sequence the work, etc. I then worked with a great craftsman on an architectural model with a very tight deadline, and he annoyed me no end in taking up a great deal of time building jigs rather than just building the model. Boy, did I learn the error of my thinking when he started cranking out window frames and doors with greater precision and at a higher speed than we would ever have done making them piece by piece, bodging away. I learned the importance of designing the making process itself, being deliberate and thoughtful in how to make the piece. How will you shape it, how will you hold it while you shape it, can you automate with jigs, etc. Think about it ahead of time, make it an elegant and deliberate process in itself, and you will enjoy undertaking the work even more, while getting even better outcomes. The absolute master of this approach is Ed Tosti, whose build logs and resulting books on the Naiad and Young America offer master classes in how to make jigs, tools and processes for every aspect of modeling. Be sure to read his logs and books for priceless information; he has dramatically helped me improve my own craftsmanship. TECHNIQUES Magnification Greg (dmv27) promotes the use of magnifying lens—he uses 5x Optivisors—and guarantees your work will look better to the naked eye. I have adopted this, adding an additional flip-down loupe and LED lights. It allows me to see my measuring scales more accurately, and it reveals imperfections that are not immediately obvious to the naked eye. And Greg is right; once these are corrected under magnification, they really look better to the naked eye. Another way to use magnification is to take close up photos periodically of your model, at high resolution. You will be amazed what shows up and possibly needs fixing. Indeed, it takes brave modelers to show their work at high resolution on this website, because flaws become so obvious. Accuracy in layout. Beautiful craftsmanship at small scale depends upon accurate fitting of parts. Loose joints, ragged edges, all betray poor craftsmanship. So how to achieve accuracy? It starts with precise setting out. As druxey will always remind us, use a very sharp, hard pencil when laying things out. An unsharp or soft pencil lead can be 2” at my current scale of 3/16” = 1’-0”. When requiring high precision, mark out with a scalpel or exacto blade. This has the added advantage of providing a highly accurate place to register your chisel when cutting. Ed Tosti advises always to use a center punch to mark for drilling, to avoid the drill wandering off mark. Fit pieces to each other. Mark a piece against another piece, for example, lay the actual carling against the beam when cutting its mortise, rather than using a scale to mark what the mortise is supposed to be. The carling is probably slightly over or undersized relative to what it ought to be by scale, but it will not matter because the joint was marked to match its real size. And when getting a curved piece of wood to lay against another curved piece, like in planking, slip artist’s graphite transfer paper between the two so one will mark high points on the other than can be shaved down. After trial and error test and shave, test and shave, you will obtain a perfect fit. Use long battens or card templates to maintain a fair line for small parts. Many ship constructions, like the carlings in a deck, or the wales, are made up of many small objects fitted end to end. Without a bigger guide, it is very easy to get these slightly out of whack as each individual part is installed, and the end result is a sloppy, unfair line. Long battens and templates let you see where the part has to go—precisely—to maintain a fair line the length of the ship. Obtain and use good files. I found it hard to use files at the start. Through a lot of trial and error, I discovered the virtues of using very good files (sharp and consistent); of using coarse, medium and fine files (using too fine a file at the start leads to impatience and sloppiness when it takes so long, while too coarse a file at the end leaves a rough surface and edge); and of learning to “register” the file against the surface before filing, to keep the surface level. It is too, too, easy to round things over with a file because of the slight rocking motion of the hand. Be consciously aware of keeping the file level. I often draw hatch lines on the surface I am filing, so I can check periodically to see that the hatch lines are coming off uniformly and not just one one side or corner. If I need to angle a surface slightly, I watch for the hatch lines to come off evenly at one side. With good file work, you can make just about anything fit extremely precisely. Sand against templates or flat surfaces. Holding a piece of sandpaper in the hand and rubbing against your piece will almost always lead to rounded edges. Far better to glue the sandpaper to a larger sanding surface, and rub the work against the sanding surface. For long pieces with a set radius like gundeck clamps or the tops of wales, I draw the exact curve needed on a piece of wood, cut with a jigsaw, then put sandpaper on the edge of one piece to use as a template for sanding the edge of the other piece. Reverse and sand the first side, and you have two templates, concave and convex, which match perfectly. Put sandpaper one each, and rub your workpieces along the length to obtain a perfect radius surface with no rounded edges. Similarly, glue sandpaper of different grits to flat sheets of plywood. Rub the piece on this surface, and you can avoid rounding over. Trim a composite assembly after assembled. Let’s say you want to glue together two pieces of wood at right angles, for example, the framing of a hatch. If you cut each piece precisely to the right length and then glue together, there is a more than even chance they will not precisely line up after gluing. Better to make one side slightly oversize, and then file it down to match the other side after they are glued together. Clamping and gluing. Always dry fit an assembly before gluing. This helps ensure that a part really does fit, and you work out the process in which you will clamp before the glue is on and starting to set. There is no panic quite like having a piece start to set up and you can’t pull the joint together, or you realize you need an additional clamp that you can’t quite find at the moment. Use a slower setting glue, like Titebond III, if you have a really complex setup. I recently had a problem of how to clamp a plank in a wale at the bow, where no clamp or jig could be devised. Greg (dmv27) gave me a successful tip, which was to apply superglue in little dots interspersed with the carpenter’s wood glue. Pressing the piece against the hull by hand for a few minutes allowed the superglue to set, which then acted like a clamp for the wood glue. Without this, I would have had sloppy joints to the next plank, and no way to fix it. Finally, Greg offers another tip he got from druxey, which is to clean off every joint before the glue sets, using a cup of water and a small brush. Smeared glue, or even worse, dried glue blobs, are hard to remove afterwards, and definitely reduce the quality of craftsmanship.
  2. Hi Alan, thank you so much for following up on the rigging warrant. £420 for the 6 pages exceeds my retirement discretionary income, so I will have to wait until a hopefully cheaper digital copy comes out in the next year or so. I have a way to go before rigging seriously comes into my project, so the timing might work out OK. Do you know how I would find out if and when it is digitized? druxey, that is fascinating to see, thank you. I had read about girdling (mostly in Patrick O'Brian books), but this is the first I have seen what that looks like. Presumably, this simply increases the girth of the hull, providing more lateral stability and less roll. It doesn't seem like a few inches would do much, but multiplied by the length, that is probably a lot of additional bouyancy at midships. I wish I understood more about the science of hull shapes. Mark
  3. Hi Mike, I look forward to hearing how things change for you at the larger scale. More opportunity for details, etc. Mark
  4. Hello Amalio, Can you tell me the scale of your ship model? Mark
  5. Thanks, druxey. By the way, do I see a thickened plank under the Resolution's wale that does not extend all the way to the aft end of the wale? And does the wale thin down at the point the lower plank terminates? I have never seen that before, if am seeing it correctly. Mark
  6. Thanks, druxey and Mark P, I think we have resolved how this complex junction is managed. The Bellona sheer drawing shows a larger radius curve at the lower, aft corner of the wale, and from the way things are lining up on the hull, I think it is because of the natural curve of the plank immediately below the wale. At least that is how it seems to be emerging as I try to fair these pieces. druxey, I see your wale does tuck under at the lowest, aft corner; this is reassuring, because mine really looks like it wants to tuck under. Mark P's image shows a wale more straight up and down. I am sure this has entirely to do with the particular geometries of the under body for each ship. The famous architect Lou Kahn once asked, "what do you want, brick?", to determine how to use it according to its own inherent nature. I would apply this to wales at this point: "wale, how do you want to follow the natural lines of your hull?" Apologies for weird thinking... And by the way, beautiful model of the Resolution, druxey! Mark
  7. Thanks, Mark, this is a very helpful view. I think it confirms where my hull seems to be taking me. The wale is revealed at full thickness at the aftmost end where it is vertical and hits the lower counter, but shows only 3-4" along its lower edge where the lower planking is parallel to the wale and abutting against it. The triangular plank we have been discussing looks like a transition piece, itself standing at right angles to the wale at the top, but allowing the lower planking to come from parallel to right angles to the wale as it bends around the corner. The attached drawing shows how perhaps a rabbet would provide a landing for the small triangular piece, where the rabbet would be narrow at the top and increasingly wide at the bottom. This is a difficult drawing to visualize; it tries to line up with the perspective of Mark P's image above. This would be a fairly elegant solution to reconciling all of these at this corner, as best as one might expect given the complexities. Mark
  8. hi druxey, Well spotted, I never noticed that. Could it be the little corner of planking just above the chain circled in red below? If so, the wale in the first model has wrapped much further around the corner than in the second model. In the second model below, the triangular plank hits the inner side of a much thicker wale at an obtuse angle, and could not be confused for a smooth continuation of the wale plank as in the first model. Mark
  9. Just for fun, I looked again at the photos I took of the 1st Bellona model. It shows the lowest, aftmost plank of the wales curving around under the stern, like the planking presumably would do below it. This is not consistent with the original Admiralty sheer plan, nor with the 2nd Bellona model with the copper sheathing. I will have to assume that this was a modeler's convenience, dealing with the reality of skeletal planking in this portrayal of the ship. Unless anyone has seen a wale curve under the counter like this. Mark
  10. Amalio, Outstanding project, some of the very best craftsmanship I have seen. You are a source of inspiration! Mark
  11. Thanks, druxey, that confirms for me that I am on the right track. This is definitely a spot that is less than gracefully worked out, in the big scheme of design. I think a lot of fiddling had to go into reconciling the various parts that intersect here. I have noticed that on some other ships, the lower edge of the wales align exactly with the trim across the lower end of the counter, making the junctions below this easier to reconcile. Look at Siggi's nice junction at this spot, for example, on the 1745 Establishment ship. But for some reason, the Bellona drops the wales partly below this, causing them to run partly into the counter, and partly into the very complex compound curves below. This has to be the point where the construction crew asks "what the [insert favorite explicative here] was the shipwright thinking here?" Mark
  12. I spent a happy day carving the last plank. However, in trying to make everything fair together, I noticed that a gap appeared to be forming between the curved end of the wale (see the curve in the drawing below), and the hull framing itself. I thought I had messed up my framing somehow. But then I looked at the photo of the second Bellona model below, and noticed that the wale shows its full thickness along the counter and along that lower curve, but not on the lower edge. The planks are clearly coming around that curve, and then tucking in behind the wale at the curve itself. If this were not the case, the short little planks at the curve would be covering up 4 inches of the wale, which it does not appear to do. So, I am assuming for now, until someone tells me otherwise, the wale does indeed stand away from the hull at that curve, enough for the lower hull planking to die into it. I have had a devil of a time visualizing what is going on at this junction... Mark
  13. Thanks, Gary, for the comments. It is kind of hard to realize now, but I learned to draw before CAD was invented or at least used in architecture offices. I am a dinosaur! Gaetan, I haven't checked my family tree lately....🙂 It took pretty much all day, but I got the second to last plank in on the wales. It has a very sharp twist athwartships, and a good bend aft. I could not get a clamp on the end for love or money to steam it to shape. And I could not imagine a former that would deal with the springback accurately. So I fayed a double wedge shaped piece onto the inner surface, fitted it to the hull surface, and sanded down the outer surface to parallel. The join is on the under surface of the wale, where hopefully no one will ever look and the black stain will cover it (as long as none of you give away the secret). The final piece is even worse, and I can't visualize yet exactly how it lands and what its aft edge looks like. The second Bellona model shows a sharp corner at the lower, aftmost edge (see photo), but the sheer drawing shows it gracefully rounded. I will put a big block against the location tomorrow and start carving until it looks right. Mark
  14. I will add to the other comments the same compliment: those sculptures are beautifully done! Mark
  15. Hi Gaetan, I see online that the $180,000 for the Canon 1200mm lens is for a used lens. I wonder what kind of a sailboat we could get for $180,000... I agree on the exceptional value of a batten for aligning planking. I got the idea from Gary shipwright after looking at his successful wales installation. And I can see now from him and from you the value of the batten for important pieces like the mouldings and the channel wales. Mark

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